TSX DAILY: Sports participation in U.S. high schools shows surprise decline; U.S. squeaks by Turkey in FIBA World Cup; Gatlin & Felix slow in Zagreb

≡ TSX DAILY ~ 4 September 2019 ≡

| 1. |  LANE ONE: New high school participation numbers show first overall decline in 30 years

The National Federation of State High School Associations has been compiling statistics about the number of students who play on an interscholastic sports team since the 1971-72 academic year.

Back then, there were 3.96 million boys and girls on teams and, with a couple of exceptions, the total has always risen – even if slightly – from year to year. But for the first time in 30 years, since the 1988-89 term, the total declines in the latest report on the 2018-19 academic year.

Where some 7.98 million had participated in 2017-18, the total was down by 0.54% to 7.94 million this last year, an exact decline of 43,395. The details were both surprising and expected:

● The number of students in sports declined for both boys and girls, also for the first time since 1988-89. The number of boys dropped by 0.68% and the number of girls dropped by 0.35%.

● Among boys, the biggest decrease – and the driver for the overall totals – was in 11-man football, with 30,829 fewer players. However, the number of schools playing football was up nationally, so is this a reaction to athlete safety … or are football team sizes shrinking either due to regulations or costs?

Also worth noting was the decrease in basketball players, down 10,604 over the prior year, once again with the number of schools fielding teams increasing. The player-safety issues are far fewer in basketball, so there has to be another explanation.

Track & field, soccer, wrestling and tennis were all up slightly; baseball, golf and swimming & diving were down slightly.

● The decline in sports participation by girls had to come as a surprise, against the current narrative that more girls want to play if given the opportunity. Basketball, the no. 3 sport for girls, saw a decline – just as with boys – by 13,340, at the same time that the no. of schools offering the sport increased again.

The most popular sport for girls, track & field, had 488,267 girls involved, down by 325 from 2017-18, while volleyball – no. 2 – was up by 6,225 players. Softball, tennis, swimming & diving and competitive spirit were all down slightly; soccer and lacrosse were up slightly.

● Football accounted for 71% of the total decline, so that has to be studied further. Even so, the importance of interscholastic sports to high school students is hard to over-estimate.

Based on the NFSHS and National Center for Education Statistics data, 47.2% of all U.S. high school students – 7.94 million out of 16.81 million – played interscholastic sports at the high school level in the 2018-19 school year.

That nearly half of all students are involved in sports is remarkable and a testament to the value of sports to the students themselves. One year is hardly a trend; let’s see what next year brings.

| 2. | ATHLETICS: Big throw by Ryan Crouser in Bellinzona, Gatlin and Felix slow in Zagreb

The extremely late date for the 2019 IAAF World Championships, beginning 28 September in Doha, has pushed athletes into meets they would not usually contest this late in the calendar. A couple of those were Sunday’s Gala dei Castelli in Bellinzona (ITA) and Tuesday’s Hanzekovic Memorial in Zagreb (CRO).

In Bellinzona, reigning Olympic Champion Ryan Crouser of the U.S. was sharp in the shot, winning with an impressive throw of 22.28 m (73-1 1/4), and World 100 m Champion Justin Gatlin (pictured) rebounded from his fourth at the Diamond League final in Zurich with a win in 9.97, ahead of fellow American Mike Rodgers (10.00). Also, 2008 Olympic 400 m Champion LaShawn Merritt ran his first 400 m race in two years and won in a respectable 45.82.

In the IAAF World Challenge meet in Zagreb, Rodgers won in 10.04, but Gatlin was fourth in 10.29, hardly a confidence-builder.

In the women’s 400 m, reigning World Champion Phyllis Francis of the U.S. won in 51.02, with Allyson Felix second in 51.67, neither of which was a seasonal best. Sharika Nelvis led a 1-2-4 U.S. finish in the women’s 100 m hurdles (12.73), and the biggest cheers came for Croatia’s great throwers. Olympic champions Sandra Perkovic (discus: 67.78 m/222-4) and Sara Kolak (javelin: 66.42 m/217-11) both won easily. More details here.

The last major meet before Doha comes this week with the second stage of the Diamond League finals, this time at the Van Damme Memorial in Brussels (BEL). We’ll have a preview late on  Wednesday.

| 3. | BASKETBALL: U.S. men eke out a FIBA World Cup win over Turkey, clinch Group E

It wasn’t pretty, and it could very well be called lucky. But it was – somehow – a win for the U.S. men at the FIBA World Cup in overtime by 93-92 over Turkey in Shanghai (CHN).

Turkey very nearly won the game twice. After the U.S. ran out to a 41-26 lead in the second quarter, the Turks scored 12 straight points to get back into it and played the U.S. tough from then on.

In the final minute of regulation time, Turkey’s Ersan Ilyasova (NBA/Milwaukee Bucks) had a tipin to give his team an 81-79 lead with 12.3 seconds to play. The U.S. missed a three-pointer, but grabbed the rebound and Jayson Tatum (pictured) was fouled on a three-point attempt with 0.1 on the clock. Tatum had two of the three to send the game into overtime.

The Turks had an 89-84 lead in the extra period, but the U.S. rallied for a 91-89 lead. But a Cedi Osman three-point play gave the Turks a 92-91 lead with 50 seconds left. Joe Harris missed a jumper for the U.S. and Myles Turner turned the ball over and the Americans had to foul and Dogus Balbay had two shots with nine seconds left. He missed both.

Because the foul on Balbay was called for “unsportsmanlike conduct” under international rules, Turkey had the ball and Osman was immediately fouled … and missed two more free throws!

The U.S.’s Tatum rebounded the second miss, fell with an ankle injury and was replaced by Khris Middleton. He drove the lane for a layin but was fouled. His two foul shots gave the American squad a 93-92 victory and clinched the top spot in Group E. More here.

Turkey will play the Czech Republic for the second spot in Group E on Thursday. In the other groups playing on Tuesday, Brazil upset Greece, 79-78, to take control of Group F; Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks) was held to 13 points on 3-7 shooting. The Greeks now play New Zealand to determine which will advance.

| 4. | CYCLING: Speedy Roglic takes lead in La Vuelta after sterling time trial

After a first week of wild, unexpected swings on the leaderboard, the results of Tuesday’s Individual Time Trial went to form.

Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic (pictured) is a known time-trial ace and he showed his ability once again with a decisive Stage 10 victory over the hilly, 36.2 km course from Jurancon to Pau (FRA) in 47:05 and became the fifth different race leader over the last five stages.

He won by 25 seconds over Australia’s Patrick Bevin, but more importantly had advantages of 1:22 over Spaniard Marc Soler, 1:27 over Dylan Teuns (BEL), 1:38 over Alejandro Valverde (ESP), 2:00 vs. Miguel Angel Lopez (COL) and 3:06 over incoming race leader Nairo Quintana (COL).

That leaves Roglic wearing La Roja – the red leader’s jersey – with a 1:53 edge over Valverde, +2:11 over Lopez and +3:00 vs. Quintana. But now we go back to climbing, with hilly stages on Wednesday and Thursday and uphill finishes on tough climbing stages on Friday and Sunday.

After the first week of riding was on the eastern coast of Spain, the second week is up at the northern border, leading west. The final week will be in the center of the country, heading to the finish in Madrid on the 15th.

5. | FOOTBALL: U.S. women cruise to 3-0 win in Victory Tour III over Portugal

In front of a capacity-plus crowd of 19,600 at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota, the U.S. comfortably won its third Victory Tour game, 3-0, over Portugal.

The game was lopsided from the start and the score would have been much higher if not for good work by Portuguese keeper Ines Pereira. But Carli Lloyd (pictured) broke through to score in the 18th minute on a rebound from back-to-back saves by Pereira, and Lloyd then converted a questionably-called penalty kick in the 32nd minute for a 2-0 lead at the half.

Almost the entire game was played in Portugal half of the field and the U.S. ended with 68% possession on the game and a 21-1 edge in shots.

The second half was continuous U.S. pressure, but no goals until Lindsey Horan ran onto a perfect Christen Press corner kick about six yards in front of the Portugal goal and headed a rocket past Pereira for the 3-0 final. The U.S. has outscored Ireland and Portugal by 10-0 in its three Victory Tour wins so far. More here.

With the final whistle, U.S. coach Jill Ellis recorded her 105th win with the U.S. team, equaling the record of the late Tony DiCicco, who managed the squad from 1994-99. Ellis will no doubt have the record to herself when she finishes her coaching stint with the final two Victory Tour games on 3 and 6 October vs. South Korea.

| 6. | PREVIEWS: Beach Volleyball World Tour Final and the Modern Pentathlon World Championships

Lots of action this week and we have previews coming daily. First up:

● FIVB World Tour Final in Rome: The top beach duos will face off this week in Italy, with the biggest question being whether anyone can beat the Norwegian stars Anders Mol and Christian Sorum. In their 11 World Tour tournaments together, they are 61-4 and have won seven, tied for the second-most in history. They did finish third at the recent World Championships and the Russian winners – Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy – and silver medalists Julius Thole and Clemens Wickler (who beat Mol & Sorum) also in the field.

The women’s favorites are World Champions Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes of Canada, and the American silver medalists Alix Klineman and April Ross. More here.

● UIPM World Championships in Budapest: A huge field of nearly 1,000 athletes are in Hungary for the Pentathlon Worlds as well as a concurrent event just for the Laser Run. Lithuania’s 35-year-old Laura Asadauskaite – the 2012 Olympic Champion – already won the World Cup Final earlier this year and just won the European Championship; she’s the women’s favorite.

The men’s field is evenly matched, with Britain’s James Cooke trying to defend his title against multiple former winners and last year’s silver medalist, Valentin Prades of France. More here.

| 7. | THE LAST WORD: ESPN’s Max Kellerman showed how difficult it is for him to fill two hours during Tuesday’s “First Take” show, where he insulted track & field – and the Olympic Games for that matter – by saying that “It’s only a sport by a very broad definition” and “The best athletes — because that’s where the money is — go to basketball and football and the others fall down to track & field.”

Oblivious even to the athletic and financial firepower of Jamaica’s Usain Bolt (pictured)Kellerman’s comments got lots of reaction from the track & field community of course. But it’s easy to understand now why he’s one of ESPN’s boxing analysts … because he’s obviously been hit too many times.

By the way, when’s the last time Kellerman was drug tested?